Friday, January 20, 2012

What 1,000,000 Means to Me

I have so many things I want to blog about, but I think I will delve into politics for a bit. Disclaimer: I am an unabashed progressive. Very much a liberal, though a perhaps a bit moderate in my later years. If you can’t stand people who think true Americans take care of other Americans, then perhaps you want to stop here (you can wait, and read my next blog for a different topic).

So…one million.

David M. Schwartz, in his picture book How Much is a Million? says that if a million kids climbed onto each others shoulders, they would reach higher into the sky than airplanes could fly.

One million cheeseheads…stack them up. That’s how many people think Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin neglected to tell them during his campaign that he was going to tromp on collective bargaining, dump on public workers, and slash Badgercare and school spending while promising to give public money to private schools. He did tell us he was going to kill the high speed train project, and the jobs it would have brought to the state. But I guess some people didn’t believe him.

I’ve always had a backseat interest in politics. But a year ago (11 months, to be exact) I took four days off school without pay to exercise my right to speak out against what I believe to be the tyranny of corporate funding of politicians. People will say the “union bosses” made us do it. But I sat in an MTI meeting for over four hours while teachers debated the pros and cons of continuing the protests. It was agonizing. We voted. No one told us what to do.

However, Scott Walker refused to listen to the hundreds of teachers and state workers who showed up at the Capitol Building. By the next week thousands were marching. Still the governor didn’t listen. Some of the Republican legislators described the protestors as “smelly college students” and “out of state union thugs.” I’m here to tell you that there were people older than me marching, people in wheel chairs and with canes, people with babies and young children, public workers and private sectors people with signs supporting public workers. I hate crowds, but I was inside the capitol building (before they found ways to shut people out) when there were 5,000 people or more, singing and shouting. No one smelled. And I never felt unsafe.

What I find most amazing is that each week the crowds grew larger and more vocal, and yet our governor refused to listen. He kept talking about a mythical “silent majority” that he believed supported him. The weekend that the farmers came to the Square with their tractors, over 100,000 people showed up to support the State Senators who’d left the state in order to stop a vote and to give the people of the State time to think about was in the proposed bill the governor was rushing through in his first weeks in office. The governor refused to listen.

We recalled two Republican legislators over the summer. And kept all of the Democratic ones that were up for recall in office. The governor still refused to listen.

So this fall I helped collect signatures to petition for a recall of Gov. Scott Walker. I wrote an op ed for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel detailing my reasons why. In the print version of the newspaper, they paired my piece with an anti-recall op-ed. That’s fair. Discourse and debate is always good. Over 300 people commented on my essay. A lot of them in childish, mean-spirited ways. But, hey, democracy is messy. I knew what I was getting into when I went public with my opinions.

You need to know that the recall effort – the collection of all those signatures – was truly a grassroots effort. I know. I went to the organizing meeting. I stood on a street corner in the cold and snow with others, collecting signatures on a Saturday morning.

And now the results are in. More than one million people have declared that they want a new election. They want a second chance to vote for someone who will respect democracy and listen to them. Is Scott Walker listening now? Nah. He fled the state. On the day the signatures were delivered to the Government Accountability Board, Gov. Walker was in New York arranging to get more campaign money from corporate bigwigs.

One million people. 

That is so awesome. We could climb on each other’s shoulders and reach past the place where planes fly. We can reach toward hope. Maybe then the governor will listen.
[Photo Capitol Protest: Nicole O'Connor/]
[Photo Crowd Protest: ra_hurd/Flickr]


  1. "Union thug" has become the latest Republican epithet and unions are their latest scapegoats to divert attention from the FACT that the Great Recession was brought about by corporate malfeasance and the curtailment of STATUTORILY REQUIRED regulation and oversight by the Bush Administration.

    As for Governor Scott Walker, it appears he may be about to get his long overdue comuppence through a recall generated by those who recognize that his union-busting tactics and pay cuts were more about diverting state tax revenue to more in-state corporate welfare than anything to do with budget control. In other words, Republicans HAVE found a class of citizenry they're willing to tax——middle class civil servants. And, yet, it is THEY who scream "Class warfare" whenever this is point out.

    And this is a former, life-long Republican writing this comment. I'm so sick of what these current Republican "leaders" have done to the Grand Old Party. It's positively sickening.

  2. Thanks for commenting, rdougwicker. I have voted both sides of the aisle in my lifetime. While I am a progressive, I've always considered myself an independent. Funny, but the Progressive Movement rose out of the Republican Party of Fighting Bob LaFollette and Teddy Roosevelt. There definitely has been a change in the Republican party over the years. It is sad, and somewhat frightening, imo.